| One of the world's many|
|Systems and types|
|Not as dysfunctional as the Middle East|
Belarus (Bela - White, Rus - Ruthenia), also known as Europe's last dictatorship (excluding Russia), is a country in eastern Europe, bordering on Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine. Its capital is Minsk.
European historians will often say that Poland is the world's doormat, but throughout history Belarus was Poland's doormat. Despite the fact that Belarus has a distinct language, of the North Slavic variety [note 1], it wasn't until World War I that anyone besides Belarusians themselves even recognized them as a separate ethnic identity. Even then, the name the Russians came up with and propagated—first Belorussia and, after the communists took over, Byelorussia—was an intentional misnomer that attempted to Russianize them.[note 2] It wasn't until 1918 that Belarus even had a chance to try to govern itself and when it did, as a short-lived socialist republic, for a variety of reasons it fell apart in about 9 months.
Although the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus has implemented Soviet-style policies under the rule of de facto dictator Alexander Lukashenko and is interested in joining back up with Russia again. In contrast to most of the former Warsaw Pact there never was 'shock therapy' privatization of the economy like in most other countries and most large companies are still state owned along the established pre-1991 lines. Politics have never seen liberalization either; Lukashenko is often called 'the last dictator of Europe', though competition for the title has come up. Since the founding of the so-called 'Union State' between Russia and Belarus in 1999, the two nations have been working closely together on economic and security policy in a construction which can be seen as halfway between the European Union and the United States, with added flag waving and guys with guns marching around. In 2014, Belarus joined Russia and Kazakhstan in the Eurasian Economic Union,[note 3] which essentially aims to be a (Russian-dominated) version of the EU. Lukashenko is known for his statement that it is better to be a dictator than gay. Philosophers worldwide are still out to prove this, but we can think of someone who would probably disagree.
Belarus is the only country in Europe that has the death penalty. Considerable secrecy surrounds the application of death penalty in Belarus. Information concerning the death penalty is withheld from the general public, whilst information on detention conditions for death convicts and execution procedures is not publicly available. The exact number of persons convicted to death and executed in Belarus is unknown. The families of death convicts are neither informed in advance of the date of the execution, nor immediately thereafter, the body is never handed over to relatives, and the location of the burial site is kept secret for good measure.  
In the land of the blind, everyone is jealous of the one-eyed person
- in a less common classification, or more usually East Slavic, together with Ukrainian and Russian
- The name Belarus is not entirely clear but likely comes from the Belarusian name Bielaruś, which translates into English as "White Ruthenia", the historic name for the region. By contrast, the name Byelorussia comes from the Russian term Byelorussia and translates as "White Russia", despite the area never having been historically Russian in a meaningful way. In places where the Russians couldn't eliminate their name for the area they then encouraged people to misapply the translation "White Russia" to the name Belarus, a practice Russian nationalist groups encourage even today; they have been so successful that, even though Russians increasingly use the name Belarus instead of Byelorussia, they have yet to replace the demonym Byelorussian.
- Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are prospective EEU members with Armenia having begun the accession process.
- Winners of the Ig® Nobel Prize
- Belarus's crackdown. No applause, please: A hardline president is having to cope with a collapsing economy (Jul 7th 2011) The Economist
- In Belarus, one-armed man arrested for clapping by Fred Weir (July 8, 2011). Christian Science Monitor